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Policy D12 Agent of Change


  1. The Agent of Change principle places the responsibility for mitigating impacts from existing noise-generating activities or uses on the proposed new noise-sensitive development.
  2. Boroughs should ensure that planning decisions reflect the Agent of Change principle and take account of existing noise-generating uses in a sensitive manner when new development, particularly residential, is proposed nearby.
  3. Development proposals should manage noise and other potential nuisances by:
    1. ensuring good acoustic design to mitigate and minimise existing and potential impacts of noise generated by existing uses located in the area
    2. exploring mitigation measures early in the design stage, with necessary and appropriate provisions secured through planning obligations
    3. separating new noise-sensitive development where possible from existing noise-generating businesses through distance, screening, internal layout, sound-proofing and insulation, and other acoustic design measures.
  4. Development should be designed to ensure that established noise-generating venues remain viable and can continue or grow without unreasonable restrictions being placed on them.
  5. New noise-generating development, such as industrial uses, music venues, pubs, rail infrastructure, schools and sporting venues proposed close to residential and other noise-sensitive development should put in place measures such as soundproofing to mitigate and manage any noise impacts for neighbouring residents and businesses.
  6. Boroughs should refuse development proposals that have not clearly demonstrated how noise impacts will be mitigated and managed.

For a long time, the responsibility for managing and mitigating the impact of noise on neighbouring residents and businesses has been placed on the business or activity making the noise, regardless of how long the noise-generating business or activity has been operating in the area. In many cases, this has led to newly-arrived residents complaining about noise from existing businesses, sometimes forcing the businesses to close down.

The Agent of Change principle places the responsibility for mitigating the impact of noise firmly on the new development. This means that where new developments are proposed close to existing noise-generating uses, applicants will need to design them in a more sensitive way to protect the new occupiers, such as new residents, businesses, schools and religious institutions, from noise impacts. This could include paying for soundproofing for the existing noise-generating uses, such as an existing music venue. The Agent of Change principle works both ways. If a new noise-generating use is proposed close to existing noise-sensitive uses, such as residential development or businesses, the onus is on the new use to ensure its building or activity is designed to protect existing users or residents from noise impacts.

The Agent of Change principle is included in the National Planning Policy Framework at paragraph 123 and Planning Practice Guidance provides further information on how to mitigate the adverse impacts of noise[32].

[32] NPPG,

Noise-generating cultural venues such as theatres, concert halls, pubs and live music venues should be protected (see Policy HC5 Supporting London’s culture and creative industries. This requires a sensitive approach to managing change in the surrounding area. Adjacent development and land uses should be brought forward and designed in ways which ensure established cultural venues remain viable and can continue in their present form without the prospect of licensing restrictions or the threat of closure due to noise complaints from neighbours.

Housing and other noise-sensitive development proposed near to an existing noise-generating use should include necessary acoustic design measures. This will ensure new development has effective sound insulation to mitigate and minimise potential noise impact or neighbour amenity issues. Mitigation measures should be explored at an early stage in the design process, with necessary and appropriate provisions secured through planning obligations.

Some permitted development, including change of use from office to residential, requires noise impacts to be taken into consideration by the Local Planning Authority as part of the prior approval process. Boroughs must take account of national planning policy and guidance on noise, and therefore the Agent of Change principle would apply to these applications.

Noise impact assessments accompanying planning applications should be carefully tailored to local circumstances and be fit for purpose. That way, the noise characteristics of existing uses can be properly captured and assessed. For example, cultural venues can have peaks of noise at different times of the day and night and on different days of the week, and boroughs should require a noise impact assessment to take this into consideration. Boroughs should pay close attention to the assumptions made and methods used in noise impact assessments to ensure a full and accurate assessment.

Reference should be made to Policy D13 Noise which considers the impacts of noise-generating activities on a wider scale. Further guidance on managing and mitigating noise in mixed-use development and town centre development is also provided in the Mayor’s London Environment Strategy.